Tom Chick

The absolute dumbest thing you’ll see all week: Godzilla vs. Kong

, | Movie reviews

I don’t mean to belittle dumb movies.  Some of my favorite movies are dumb.  But Godzilla vs. Kong is steeped in a special kind of concentrated studio inanity.  It stinks of dumb.  It is the most profoundly stupid “vs.” movie since Batman vs. Superman.  It’s not even worthy of Syfy’s Animal X vs. Animal Y movies, which can at least pretend they’re being deliberately campy.  Godzilla vs. Kong is so profoundly dumb that it doesn’t even know it’s dumb.

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Planetfall: the death of trust

, | Game diaries

After forty turns of searching for the Psi-Fish I’m supposed to defeat, and whose dwellings are supposed to be abundant, and with whom I’m supposed to be at war, I have found no Psi-Fish.  I have explored enough of the map to discover three NPC factions and their dwellings.  A map this size should have three NPC factions, and I’ve found Therians, Forgotten, and Paragon.  If there are Psi-Fish here, they’re a fourth faction tucked into tiny pockets of unexplored territory.  It seems unlikely.  

But just to verify that something is broken, I looked up how to unfog the map using a cheat code.  The situation is that dire.  I have resorted to cheat codes!  Sure enough, there are no Psi-Fish on this map.  It is Psi-Fish-less.  My mission to capture two Psi-Fish dwellings is literally impossible.

Cue the Lalo Schifrin!

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Planetfall: going fishing, losing touch with reality, and watching sports

, | Game diaries

Psi-Fish owned sectors are Abundant!  Psi-Fish make more Demands! Psi-Fish start at War with you!

So said the intel briefing for Angelus, a planet supposedly lousy with psionic extradimensional fish.  These fish have breached our dimension, bringing with them Void storms and deposits of cosmite.  Our empire’s Penumbra faction wants us to wipe out two Psi-Fish dwellings.  At which point, I’ve confirmed that we can declare “mission accomplished” and pack it in.  This isn’t going to be like the hopperhound fiasco on Virginia, where I ended up having to burn the whole planet because I misinterpreted my orders.  Which happens.  You can’t make an empire without burning a few planets.  But now we’re here to do a job and then call it a day, which will secure the Void Lure for our empire, which will let us recruit Psi-Fish during later missions.  “Capable Pets,” the Psynumbra told us when they named the mission.

So where are all the Psi-Fish at?

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Planetfall: Suppose they gave a doomsday and nobody came?

, | Game diaries

By order of the Wasila Combine — heck, let’s go ahead and make this a religious thing as well — and by the will of the Promethean god, we’re going to uncork our PyrX refineries (pictured) to flood the atmosphere with toxic gas.  Actually, I’m not sure if there’s a Promethean god.  It seems like there would be a Promethean god.  Or at least an ancient civilization that worshipped some god.  Whatever the theology or lack thereof, we’re erasing all life on the planet from within the safety of our own territory.  This will require a lot less micromanagement than doing it with armies.

500 energy and 50 operational points later — Planetary Purification ain’t cheap — it’s a doomsday party and everyone is invited!

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Planetfall: we need to talk about the M-word

, | Game diaries

I’m occasionally surprised to hear people who play sci-fi strategy games complain that they don’t want to build their own ships.  Since Master of Orion, this has been a fundamental part of the genre.  It was the cornerstone of warfare in Brian Reynold’s Alpha Centauri.  But it’s especially important in a strategy game that emphasizes tactical combat.  And being an Age of Wonders game, Planetfall emphasizes tactical combat.  In fact, I’d argue it’s a shell for tactical combat.  If you just want to scooch armies around a map and plop buildings into your cities, there are other games better suited to your preferences.  Planetfall, like developer Triumph Studios’ previous games, is for people who want to play detailed tactical battles set in the larger context of a 4X.  Some designers rightly understand that tactical combat can interfere with the flow of a grand strategy game.  But those designers didn’t make Planetfall.  People who love tactical combat made Planetfall.

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Planetfall: Jewal Gruvich and the Virginia Cull

, | Game diaries

In the years since Civilization VI was released by Firaxis, you could say it’s gotten a ton of post-release support.  If you consider “support” adding stuff rather than fixing things that don’t work.  The process has been fascinating.  Rather than adjust the design or the AI to make a game that actually works, Firaxis has instead piled up increasingly absurd ways to play, with no regard for balance, tuning, or even the principles of good game design.  Civilization VI has become a ridiculous, slapdash, and profoundly idiotic sandbox.  One of the folks on this site’s forum called it “Goat Simulator for 4X games.”  

And given that every Civilization since IV appeals to people who don’t care whether the AI can play the design, it’s a pitch-perfect approach.  I suspect it’s done very well for Firaxis.  They’ve correctly identified their target audience and they’ve given them what they want.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing another 4X with pitch-perfect post-release support that includes perhaps the most dramatic change I’ve seen applied to a strategy game, short of a total conversion mod.  Age of Wonders: Planetfall was given a free update last November that introduced Galactic Empire mode.  It’s nothing short of revolutionary and as a result, Planetfall is now the definitive expression of Dune.  

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